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Women Feel More Anxious When Abortion Is Denied, Not Because Of It

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Another study adds weight to recent information on the mental state of women who undergo an abortion. Researchers find that women who were denied the procedure experienced more anxiety, lower self-esteem and less life satisfaction than women who received one.

A team of scientists tracked close to 1,000 women across 21 states for five years after they attempted to get an abortion. They followed one group that had undergone the procedure, and another where they were denied, Chicago Tribune reports.

The women were initially interviewed one week after seeking an abortion, and twice a year for five years. They were asked about their depression and anxiety levels, as the researchers tried to measure self-esteem and life satisfaction.

At the beginning, women who were denied an abortion reported a higher level of mental health struggles. Dr. Antonia Biggs, a social psychologist researcher at the University of California at San Francisco and co-author on the study, says,

The reasons of why the women seek an abortion are probably indicative of why they also experienced stress or anxiety.

For example, a woman might be feeling stressed because of challenges accompanying an unwanted pregnancy, such as an abusive relationship or financial problems.

The reasons for seeking an abortion among the participants included issues with their partners, lack of financial stability, not being emotionally or mentally prepared.

The women who were not able to get an abortion might also have been affected by factors such as difficulty traveling to an abortion facility, or no money to make the trip. The women were denied an abortion because their pregnancies were up to three weeks past the gestational limit for facilities, the researchers noted.

Eventually, the level of anxiety for both groups of women paralleled. Biggs says the experience might have led women to examine their situations and maybe make changes, which led to an increase in happiness levels years later.

Biggs says this is a testament to how resilient women are. “I might have expected that women denied an abortion would experience more long-term mental health outcomes than they did,” she says. “And I think the fact that they didn’t speaks to how quickly they adapt.”

The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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